— From the Journal of a Man who Wandered into Another World
The third numbered sequel in the main Shin Megami Tensei JRPG series, and the first since Shin Megami Tensei II in 1994. It was released for the PlayStation 2 in Japan in February 2003, in America in October 2004 and in Europe in July 2005. It was released as a Playstation 2 Classic on the Playstation Network on May 6, 2014.Tokyo, 20XX. You and two of your high school classmates have gone to visit your sick teacher in hospital, only to find that the building is eerily deserted. The search for your teacher leads you down into the basement of the hospital, where you find evidence of sinister occult experimentation and a mysterious man who is none too happy about your intrusion. Just as he's about to have you killed, you are rescued by the intervention of your teacher, who convinces the man to let you live and takes you to the roof.There, you witness the Conception: the destruction of the old world and its transformation into an embryonic state- the Vortex World- to prepare for its eventual rebirth. Tokyo becomes a spherical world populated by demons and the wandering spirits of those who died during the Conception, with a glowing sphere suspended in its center. You have survived... but during the Conception you encountered a mysterious young boy who forcefully implanted you with a creature called a Magatama, transforming your body into that of a demon.Waking up in the hospital with your new demonic body, your struggle for survival in this new, hostile world slowly becomes a battle to determine what form the new world will take. On one side is the Assembly of Nihilo, who wish to create a world of complete stillness and peace, devoid of emotion. Opposing them is the Mantra, a powerful gang who believe in ruling by strength, passion and fear.As the legendary Demi-Fiend, you have the power to decide the fate of the Vortex World. Will you side with one of the emerging armies to help make their idea of a perfect world a reality? Or will you destroy them all and take the power of creation into your own two hands?The game is largely a dungeon crawler, as you make your way across the ruins of Tokyo looking for answers and your missing friends. Gone are the cyberpunk elements of the previous Shin Megami Tensei games; as your character is a demon you have no need to use a computer to translate and summon. Your party is made up of the main character and the demons that you have recruited to your cause. By talking to demons, you can convince them to give you money, items or to join your party. Most will demand money and items as a bribe before they will listen to you, but some will also pose a philosophical question that you must answer to their satisfaction.As demons level up extremely slowly, the quickest way to maintain a strong team is to fuse your demons together at the Cathedral of Shadows, creating entirely new demons with new powers and some inherited from their previous forms. A handful of demons will also evolve once they have reached a certain level. The Main Character develops by equipping different Magatama, each of which has a set of abilities that will be learned upon leveling up. An additional degree of difficulty is added by the fact that your character can only know eight skills at any one time, and must forget moves to learn new ones; once they are forgotten, they are Lost Forever.Battles are conducted with the Press Turn system, where at the start of each round you receive a number of actions equal to the number of characters in your battle party. A normal action consumes one Press Icon, but inflicting a critical hit or attacking the enemy's weakness only consumes half a Press Icon. Thus, by attacking the enemy's weaknesses you maximize the number of turns you get in one round. Unfortunately, attacking an enemy with an element that it is strong against- or missing entirely- consumes two Press Icons, and if the enemy repels or absorbs the attack you lose all your Press Icons. This also applies in reverse; the enemy can attack your weak points to win additional actions for itself and loses actions if you defend yourself correctly. This battle system would go on to be used in Digital Devil Saga and in a scaled-down form- the "One More" system- in Persona 3 and Persona 4.In January 2004 the game received a Updated Re-release in Japan known as Shin Megami Tensei III: Nocturne Maniax. It balanced a few of the game mechanics, added in a massive optional dungeon (and a new ending and Final Boss if you complete it) and featured Dante of Devil May Cry fame as a Guest Fighter. Considering that you are a demon and Dante is a demon hunter, you don't exactly meet on good terms. Fortunately, it was this version that was localized and released in the West. In PAL territories it was known as Shin Megami Tensei: Lucifer's Call due to copyright reasons. A second Updated Re-release named Shin Megami Tensei III: Nocturne Maniax Chronicle Edition came free with Japanese copies of Raidou Kuzunoha vs. King Abaddon, replacing Dante with Raidou.This game is a must-buy for any RPG enthusiast looking for a greater challenge than your average game and change from traditional fantasy settings. From the ruins of Vortex World Tokyo to the eclectic demon designs and the awesome rock/techno music of Shoji Meguro, there's just no other game like it. Though physical copies are now hard to come by, the game has hit the Playstation Network Store.
This game provides examples of:
Abandoned Hospital: The Shinjuku Hygienic Hospital. Unlike most examples, it's startlingly clean, as if everyone simply vanished or forgot to go to work that day.
Absurdly High Level Cap: You'll probably be in the 70's by the end of the game. The cap is 99... on the stat sheet. The actual level cap is 255. Your character hits 99 and just keeps going. Abusing this is the only way to master all the magatama.
After the End: The first major event in the game IS the End of the World as We Know It - the world (well, the greater Tokyo area) turns into a giant egg wrapped around a mystical star in preparation of being reborn as part of an endless cycle. The rest of the game is made up of figuring out and trying to influence that cycle. The city your character once knew and loved is barely recognizable, and since you're standing on the inside of the egg, you have no view of a sky, other stars, clouds, anything - all you see in the distance is more city and a giant, glowing pale-blue sun.
The Alcoholic: Loki. Wastes the entire game not doing much in Nyx's Lounge. This, interestingly, foreshadows what happens to the key you need to get from him to access the last layer of the Labyrinth: he sold it for booze money.
Alien Geometries: Many. The Labyrinth of Amala's warp points between each Kalpa, and the Twelve Meters of Eternity in the Fourth Kalpa.
Amazing Technicolor Battlefield: Several. The battle against Samael (you fight him in a warped version of the Diet Building stained glass room, which keeps spinning impossibly on an invisible axis) really stands out, though.
The Fiend dimension to which you keep getting sucked to also counts, a red, barren strip of land under an eternally raging sky.
Ambiguously Human: The Manikins. They are made from compound human souls and emotions, and because the Conception killed all the humans except for the Demi-Fiend, Yuko, Chiaki, Isamu, Hikawa, and Hijiri, they are more or less the Vortex World's equivalent to humanity. They have flesh and blood just like true humans, but are also made from the earth, the substance that gives life the easiest.
And Your Reward Is Clothes: Beat the game and you get the option to change your outfit at the start of a new cycle. Your choice influences your starting stats.
The Antichrist: What Lucifer wants you to become. Should you take the True Demon Ending, it happens.
Apocalypse How: Class X at the beginning with the Conception. Class Z at the end of the True Demon Ending. If God continues to have his way he intends for a endless cycle of Class X until free will is completely gone.
Armor-Piercing Attack: The Pierce passive skill makes all physical attacks ignore physical resistances, Null and Absorb (Not Repel, though). It's imparted by the Magatama you start the game with. The conditions to unlock it are an entirely different matter.
Armor-Piercing Question: You are set for a barrage of these by Mithra, intended to draw you to Shijima. Of course, by refusing his assertions, he loses his marbles and decides you and your demons need to die.
Awesome but Impractical: Dante. He rips through random encounters like a pro, but by the time you can recruit him the only real challenges left in the game are Bonus BossesMetatron and Lucifer, and Dante lacks the Pierce skill that's practically required to beat the latter. Furthermore, you can't use him in fusion, can't use the Compendium to retrieve him in a New Game+, and can't dismiss him from your party. This pretty much makes him useless in comparison with Raidou, his Suspiciously Similar Substitute who has better stats and learns Pierce.
Bad Ass: Although many qualify, the Demi-fiend takes the cake. Especially if you beat the Amala Labyrinth. To elaborate, this quest requires him to beat the crap out of the incarnations of Death (all ten of them, including certified badasses such as Dante or Raidou Kuzunohathe XIVth in the Chronicle Edition), go (literally) into the depths of hell itself through one of the largest, most grueling dungeons known to players, beat both Lucifer's Dragon Beelzebub and God's Metatron, be appointed the leader of hell's army in the final battle against God after proving his worth and last but not least, he punches out Kagutsuchi into oblivion to boot.
Barrier Change Boss: Noah. His weakness is changed through Aurora, and his weakness becomes the opposite of what he casts next, so if he casts Agidyne, he's weak to (or to be more precise, doesn't reflect) Bufu spells. He follows a specific pattern.
Noah can also be hit by Almighty spells, but only receives a laughable amount of damage. See below for Marathon Boss.
Big Bad Ensemble: Hikawa, Chiaki, Isamu, YHVH/the Great Will (through Kagutsuchi), and Lucifer. Your villain(s) will be among them, depending on who you side with, though Lucifer, despite using you for his own goals, will never stand against you.
Black and Grey Morality: The religious texts of the newly born world will definitely be leaving out a few choice details where the creation myth is concerned. Also, two of the Reasons are portrayed as having some good points to them, while Chiaki and Sakahagi, both following the same philosophy, are the only characters ever canonically referred to as "evil".
Body Horror: Many, many instances. Chiaki and Isamu's mutations are only the beginning. Fridge Horror kicks Fusion Errors into this.
Bootstrapped Leitmotif: In Chronicle Edition, Raidou is stuck with the themes created for Dante in the Maniax version, which are remixes of themes from the Devil May Cry series.
Boss Bonanza: The Tower of Kagutsuchi has a pool of five bosses (Ahriman, Noah, Baal Avatar, Kagutsuchi, and Lucifer) and a miniboss (Thor). Which ones you fight depends on the route you take, though only one requires you to fight all six of them and, excluding Lucifer, only two other routes require you to fight the other five.
Breath Weapon: Fire, Ice and Fog Breath. Only the first two deal actual elemental damage, though.
Brilliant but Lazy: Jyoji Hijiri. The man has complete access to the Akashic Records and knows more about what's going on than anyone else and could probably curb stomp the Demi-fiend with what he's learned. But he never reveals much and doesn't seem to realize he could create his own Reason. Justified, since God cursed him. When he finally realizes that he could create his own Reason he dies again.
Butter Face: When we are introduced to the Harlot she at first seems like an elegant, beautiful lady. Then she turns around.
Canon Name: The Main Character is called Naoki Kashima in the radio plays based on the game.
But the games he cameos in and most people in general just call him Demifiend.
Cherry Tapping: Whereas in many games an enemy's MP is a magical unending font, here it's possible to use Drain spells (most notably, Daisoujou's Meditation) to completely drain an enemy's MP reserves. The end result is the computer wasting press turn after press turn on useless actions. For instance, doing this on Trumpeter means he can't use his OHKO skill at all, making his fight ridiculously easy. Likewise, focusing on draining Ongyo-Ki, while just breaking his buffs and shattering his illusions will render him a sitting duck.
Complaining About Rescues They Don't Like: Isamu rips you out for taking too long in saving him out of the Kabukicho Prison, making him look like an Ungrateful Bastard. There is a Dummied Out sequence which explains Isamu's attitude - Yuko, the teacher he was fawning over, had broadcast a message for the PC to come and save her from her imprisonment at the Obelisk - this making Isamu fall into Heroic BSOD as he realizes he was little better than a nobody in the Vortex World.
Some random encounters have Beast Eyenote When used it gives your opponent two more turns and can be stacked. Sound tough? Good, because some of the recruitable ones have Dragon Eyenote gives your opponent four extra turns and can be stacked and will use it every fucking turn.
Baal Avatar if any of your party members doesn't have Void Curse in some form. She will always target them first with Bael's Bane, which turns them into a fly - a status ailment that can't be cured by any means (except dying) and renders them utterly useless. Note that only she has the ability to do this.
Mot sometimes chain-casts "Beast Eye" while spamming Megidolaon and Makakaja, over and over and over. And then you die. (Found here)
Continuity Nod: You get 65535 experience points after beating Lucifer. This was the maximum amount of XP you could earn per battle in Shin Megami Tensei II because of the variable type that was used in the game.
Dante uses the same coin when playing Heads or Tails that he did in Devil May Cry 2, meaning if you pick heads, you always win the gamble.
During the fight against Mara, there's a small altar with four dolls there. It's the same altar Mekata attempted to use to open a gate to the Abyss in Shin Megami Tensei II.
Having Kerberos or Orthus in your party changes the BGM of the Cathedral of Shadows to the Jakyo Manor BGMs from Shin Megami Tensei and Shin Megami Tensei II respectively.
Cursed with Awesome / Blessed with Suck: If you end up cursed by the Magatama, you will suffer random status effects (but mostly hitting your own side). However, if you enter the Cathedral of Shadows while cursed, the curse will change several fusion options so the results wind up of the darker races (Fiends, Fouls, Fallens, etc.). The results will also tend to inherit better skills.
Cute Bruiser: Pixie, if you keep her with you all along and finally take her to the room only she can open on the Fifth Kalpa.
If you fuse or let her mutate upon leveling up you will still get her, As long as you keep the fusion you use Pixie for or when it mutates to High Pixie or Queen Mab.
Cute Monster Girl: Virtually all of the female denizens of the Vortex World, except Datsue-Ba, Kali, and Mother Harlot.
Damn You, Muscle Memory: The map is the triangle button, while the menu is the square button. In other series you might expect the menu to be on the triangle with the map perhaps on the start or select buttons.
Also, if you find this game by reading up on the metaseries after playing the more popular Persona4, you may find that , in combat, the cancel button and the auto-attack buttons are reversed between the games. So, you select an attack, decide you don't want to use it, press what you remember to be the cancel button, and suddenly all of your characters run up and just punch the enemy. The mage, the healer, everyone - and your turn's over before you've realised it. This can be catastrophic if you happen to be fighting demons that are immune in some fashion to physical attacks.
Dark World: Downplaying with the Mirage dimension in Kabukicho Prison. Visually, the lighting and mist actually make it less creepy than the real one even if it's upside-down. Then you find out that empty rooms in the real world are torture chambers to drain Magatsuhi from Manikins on this side.
Another, smaller example is the World of Shadows in the Red Temple. Which is necessary to traverse in order to reach the floor above.
Demoted to Dragon: Hikawa downgrades Samael from being his Dragon to being yours in the Shijima path. He himself is also reduced to the Demi-fiend's Dragon in the same path's ending, referring to himself as the Baptist to the Demi-fiend's Savior. Not that he minds - he's getting what he wants, anyway.
De-power: Subverted in the Freedom ending. Judging from Lucifer's words, the main character is still very much powerful despite losing his tattoos. He says to stay strong for the upcoming day where he'll have to fight again.
The Dev Team Thinks of Everything: If you go to the Third Kalpa chamber and talk to Black Frost with a full roster, he will remain waiting until you come back with an open spot for him. If you already have a Black Frost, though, he will get annoyed and leave. Something similar will happen if you try to recruit Samael in the Shijima path.
Did You Just Punch Out Cthulhu?: In the True Demon ending, the Demi-Fiend not only kills Kagutsuchi, essentially an avatar of God, but simultaneously annihilates every Kagutsuchi in every vortex world effectively ending the cycle of creation and destruction and then goes out to top himself by succeeding Lucifer as the General of the Legions of Hell and goes to wage war against God himself. He doesn't just punch out Cthulhu. He has the power to ensure Cthulhu will never get back up again.
Disc One Final Dungeon: The Obelisk. It's huge, the puzzles are tricky (even the bosses are a puzzle in a way), you finally get to rescue Yuko, finishing it will turn off the Nightmare System...oh, yeah, and then there's all the stuff after it.
Disc One Nuke: Fog Breath, which can be learned from the second Magatama at a low level (Lv.21), and basically acts as a double-strength Sukunda that hits all enemies and never misses. Extremely worth the high MP cost, this skill is useful for the entire game.
Or Daisoujou, if you manage to beat and fuse it. It has an almost-Game Breaker skill which allows it to drain HP and SP out of the opponent which drains more SP than it costs, is immune to ailments, has a very high magic stat; the best healing spell in the game which not only heals your party to full HP, it also cures status ailments. The icing on the cake is that the drain skill mentioned above is considered a magic attack, meaning that it can be buffed and an opponent's defense against it de-buffed. Put two and two together and you have a demon that fills its own SP to full and sucks the opponent dry in no time WHILE healing everyone. Needless to say, this demon stays in parties for a long time.
Dark Might. Available as soon as you leave the hospital as one of Jack Frost's starting skills. Can turn any boss that isn't resistant to physical attacks in a complete joke, as long as your entire party has the skill and you time the battle accordingly. Bright Might works just as well, but appears slightly later.
Doppelgänger Spin: Ongyo-Ki. Attacking the wrong one will immediately end your turn, and you'll be at the mercy of whichever ones remain. To make matters worse, using "Ma-" spells to attack all of the clones at once doesn't work. You can figure out the real one by fighting him during a Full Moon and looking for the shadow. This only upgrades him from "nigh-impossible" to "extremely hard", though.
The Dragon: Three in the Amala Labyrinth, one on each of the last three Kalpas.
The player himself will become this to Isamu or Hikawa if you ally with them sending you to focus on remaking the world while they hold down the fort. Hikawa even puts his former Dragon Samael at your command if you join with him.
The player also becomes the Dragon for Lucifer in the True Demon Ending.
Thor to Gozu-Tennoh, and later Chiaki if you didn't take that spot already.
Easter Egg: If you have Cerberus or Orthrus is your party and enter the Cathedral of Shadows during new Kagutsuchi, the Jakyou Manor theme from Shin Megami Tensei I will play instead of the usual theme.
Eldritch Location: All of the Vortex World. Particularly interesting examples are the Diet Building, the Obelisk / Tower of Kagutsuchi and the Labyrinth of Amala, though the Assembly of Nihilo's Shiodome base, Kabukicho Prison and to a much lesser extent the Mantra HQ also qualify.
Empty Shell: The Reason Of Shijima is to turn everyone into this.
Eternal Recurrence: The way the entire system of the Conception is supposed to work. The wheel's broken in the Demon (for a while) and True Demon (forever) endings.
Everybody's Dead, Dave: The only true humans that remain after the conception are Yuko, Chiaki, Isamu, Hikawa, Hijiri or not in Hijiri's case and the protagonist (and even then only partly). Everyone else? If they aren't turned into pure Magatsuhi, they either get reincarnated into Manikins, the Vortex World equivalent of humans, who suffer from muscle spasms and are unable to make their own Reasons unlike real humans, or they get reincarnated into Souls, the Vortex World equivalent to ghosts, who are mostly friendly but are still unable to do much, being intangible spirits.
Evolutionary Levels: Some demons will, contrary to the series' normal expectations, ascend into superior forms. The result of doing this are stronger demons you never get the chance to recruit or even see. The only two ways to know if a demon can evolve is training it so it gains a level, at which point the game will inform you of the changes, or using a Divining Water on the demon in question (which you won't usually have more than a handful of, and are thus inefficient, even with Save Scumming).
Extra Dimensional Shortcut: This is the main usage of The Amala Network. Terminals allow the player to enter the network at one location and exit it at another location. Generally, this takes no more than a few seconds, but a couple of times you get stuck and have to navigate your way through the Network to find the exit.
Eye Scream: In the cutscene in which the Demi-fiend receives the first magatama, it burrows into his body via his eye-socket.
The Fair Folk: A Pixie is the first demon that joins your cause. Later you visit a construction park that has been completely taken over by Fairy demons. Most of these are Pixie-like variants (dragonfly wings, tiny floating people) but there's also a big hairy Troll that counts as a Fairy.
Fate Worse Than Death: Jyoji Hijiri's fate (speculated to be a result of his brief dabbling in deicide) is to be doomed to an endless cycle of torment, death and rebirth without hope of reincarnation into a better existence. It's implied that God will do the same thing- or worse- to the main character in the True Demon ending if He gets his hands on him.
It's also implied that it will happen in the Freedom ending where the Great Will will come after the main character one day for returning the world back to normal. He gets to keep his power for when this happens.
Forever War: As the Lady in Black explains it the forces of Light and Darkness have been fighting since the beginning throughout the universe and even beyond the flow of time, with humans, demons, and all other forms of life in the universe are mere pawns of this cosmic battle and affected by it. Even during the game the war is still raging on beyond the Vortex World. Lucifers goal in the game is to create a demon who will inherit his will and put an end to the war for good. Whether the Demi-Fiend does or not depends on whether he goes for the True Demon Ending.
God Is Evil: His endless cycle of creating and destroying Earth is more or less genocide to billions and billions of humans. Notably, this is among the last times God is portrayed as card-carryingly evil or overly lawful in MegaTen; his portrayals in games after this are a bit more sympathetic and understandable.
Not so much as understandable as more obscure. Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey doesn't pull any punches on God's portrayal but he doesn't get as many hits since he is not mentioned directly, and only appears as the Demiurge.
Gods Need Prayer Badly: According to her backstory, this is what brought Aradia into the Vortex World. More accurately, Aradia was created by the prayers of a coven of witches, and genuinely wanted to bring them salvation. Due to the mechanics of the trope in the Shin Megami Tenseiuniverse, however, she was far too weak to do that and instead wound up as an empty voice in a dying Universe where the Conception had failed to start; small gods in her situation are called "false gods" by the Lady in Black. The Lady also notes that false gods are technically forbidden, and what they do to stave off deletion - invade worlds during their Conceptions and entice others into including them into the new world so they will become "real" in that new reality. Aradia herself is noted to be the False Goddess of Freedom and the Goddess of Falsehood.
This doesn't necessarily make Aradia evil though. She is decidely a neutral, or perhaps even good, force at work. Aradia just wants to be involved in the creation of the new world because it will allow her to reclaim the deity status she had before her original world failed to complete its conception properly. There aren't any downsides to this at all other than the fact that if she doesn't play a big enough part in this conception she'll die off permanently.
Good Is Boring: Played with. As per SMT tradition, the real intent is to make you think honestly what would your choices be.
Not to mention that if you play a good boy and ignore Lucifer's offer to enter the Labyrinth, you will miss out on the chance to know the truth about the whole ordeal, including the nature of the Conception and God's goals.
Good Is Dumb: Recruited demons always join as the lowest level possible, making them forget skills they possessed normally; bosses fused have a fraction of the HP they normally have.
Additionally there are several skills like Dragon Eye that you can never use.
Hero of Another Story: Hee-ho. He keeps popping up across you in his quest for power, first as a shopkeeper in Shibuya, then visiting the Mantra HQ, and finally at Kabukicho Prison, where he gets his wish. His story joins with yours for a moment for the Black Frost battle, then he loses and you get separated again, and later you can join for good in the Third Kalpa.
Horsemen of the Apocalypse: You have to fight them as part of the Amala subquest, AND you can have them as allies too provided you have Deathstones
Humanoid Abomination: Louis Cypher (in both of his forms), the Lady in Black, the Demi-Fiend himself, Dante, Aradia and eventually, Chiaki and Isamu,as part of their evolution into the Conception gods.
Humans Through Alien Eyes: Demons don't quite "get" humans. Basic tool use seems to be foreign to their minds in some cases, which is one of the justifications for why demons can't use items from your inventory.
Hybrid Power: What Lucifer was going for with the Magatama. He got it.
Hypocrite: All of the Reason-seekers seek to create worlds that are incompatible with the actions that they're taking to make them.
Isamu. The world he intends to create is based on doing everything by yourself and not relying on others, but he never does anything but ask for help from others.
Hikawa too. For a guy supposedly interested in creating a world of stillness and silence, he sure stirs up a lot of chaos and disorder.(e.g. causing The Conception, stirring up and participating in a war between the Mantra and his own followers, the riot at Yoyogi Park, etc.) He's also very passionate about his vision for a passionless world.
Chiaki along with the other Reason seekers. She winds up nearly failing to survive according to her own survival of the fittest philosophy, and only becomes powerful through the intervention of a demon that likewise was nearly destroyed. Further, in spite of her obsession with beauty, her transformation leaves her looking quite deformed by human standards....
Futomimi as well, if a lower-key form. He treats the Demi-Fiend as an outcast, not allowing him in Mifunashiro, because he's confident that his divining powers are enough to outright stop the menace, making him inessential in the Manikins' plans. When it's obvious he's going to die miserably, he falls on his knees and begs for help. In the Yosuga path, though, he tries to foist off the blame for failing the Manikins onto the Demi-Fiend, when it's obvious it's a result of his own flaws.
I Am a Monster: You can embrace the destiny of the Demi-Fiend as written in the Miroku Scripture and get closer to Shijima by agreeing with Mithra on this one.
Incoming Ham: "The flames of the Candelabrum beckon me to the battlefield!"
Indecipherable Lyrics: The normal battle and major boss battle themes contain vocals in the background that pretty much sound like demons screeching gibberish. However, the actual lyrics are in English and connect very closely to the plot of the game.
One more God rejected! Survive the fall from grace! Thou shalt not oppose the wrath of God!
Infinity+1 Sword: The Masakados magatama. Subverts some elements in that, this being MegaTen, it is pretty damn useful even as late as you get it. With it on, you become The Juggernaut stoppable only by a barrage of Almighty attacks. That having been said, Kagutsuchi and Lucifer are still more than powerful enough to ruin your day even with Masakados equipped.
In Their Own Image: The Reasons' purpose and the essential cornerstone of the Great Will's plan.
I Work Alone: The Reason of Musubi is to apply this to the entire Universe. As in, you and you alone are responsible for your corner of the cosmos, free to do as you wish without being able to interfere with others.
Kill the Ones You Love: Most prevalent in the Neutral ending, where you put down Baal Avatar and Noah to prevent Chiaki and Isamu from enacting their mad idea of paradise. However, you still have to go at least against one of them even when you agree with one of them.
And then we have horrors as Amaterasu's Godly Light. Yay, 80% of everyone's HP just vanished in a single blow! Not satisfied? How about Kagutsuchi's Vast Light and Infinite Light? Metatron's Fire of Sinai? Radiance for the top angels? Thunderclap?
Literally Shattered Lives: Get turned to stone and there's a chance of shattering if you take a hit. Take a Force attack and this happens without fail.
Loners Are Freaks: Chiaki insists on doing everything by herself. Result: later on she literally becomes a freak.
Manipulative Bastard: Aradia. She lures Yuko with promises of giving her the power to remake the world and uses her as a pawn in a bid to become real in the new world birthed from the Conception; while supportive, she's not overtly concerned about her well-being and will often use her as an underling without explaining her the exact idea as to why she can't get a Reason from her. You could say Isamu tries to be one - if you're actually listening to his very poorly thought out The Reason You Suck Speeches. And of course, we can't forget about Lucifer, or in this case, the blond boy and the old man. He forcibly turns you into a demon, removing your ability to create a Reason, then sends you on a quest to retrieve all of the candelabra claiming that the Fiends stole them. It's a lie, of course. He gave the candelabra to the Fiends himself to test if you're strong enough to aid him. Whether he's justified in his manipulations or not is up to you.
Marathon Boss: Noah, unless you have the skill Pierce and Freikugel, the one combination he can't defend himself successfully against.
Might Makes Right: The entire point of the Reason of Yosuga. Like the others, they plan to spread their philosophy to the universe through Kagutsuchi.
Mind Screw: There's plenty of it. One of the most prominent examples is the cutscene where Chiaki reveals her intentions at the Mantra HQ. When did everything become white? Why is she sitting on a desk that definitely wasn't there before? Is this just a hallucination? Yes.
The Mirror Shows Your True Self: When Mot disguises himself as a statue, this is how you pick him out from the real statues. (He doesn't create a reflection; the real ones do.)
Mr. Fanservice: It is worth noting that the Main Character ends up spending 95% of the game completely shirtless. A significant number of Norse gods also seem to like showing off quite a bit of toned physique.
And then there's Dante, who gets special mention for having a crotch shot before jumping off a very tall building.
Monsters Everywhere: Well, the inhabitants of this world are 95% demons, 4% ghosts and 1% human-like Manikins, so this should be expected. Even when you're walking around in towns, you can still be hit with random encounters. There are very few "safe" zones.
Monumental Damage: The ruins of Shibuya's Scramble is one of the first locations visited during the game.
Multiple Endings: There are six, depending on what sort of world you want to create. It's unusual, since usually there are only three different endings in the series, one for Law, Chaos, and Balance. The new worlds created don't really resemble the paradise either YHVH or Lucifer strive to create in earlier games, instead:
A world of total freedom and isolation.
A world where the weak are slaughtered and the strong rule.
A world of unchanging stillness and silence.
Bring back the old world.
Try to create your own world, but fail, leaving the Vortex World unchanged, or possibly like the Vortex World the way it is intentionally.
Destroy the world even worse and become the new Demon King and lead the forces of darkness to battle God.
New Game+: Lets you keep your Demon Compendium, gives you a new choice of wardrobe for the first part of the game and lets you select a "first person" view for that authentic MegaTen experience.
It also allows you to get an extra press-turn for the demi-fiend if you complete a certain sidequest in your previous playthrough. Needless to say, this is very important for people who are interested in tackling hard mode.
One of the things that makes this game difficult is the lack of Anti-Frustration Features. When you learn a skill by leveling up, that is your one and only chance to use that skill—you can't "store" them for later and there's no going back if you erase something you're currently equipped with. Later games in the franchise would be softer on this—particularly Digital Devil Saga— but here, you're expected to plan out your character progression well in advance.
Number of the Beast: The final floor of the Tower of Kagutsuchi is the 666th floor. Beelzebub is given this number in HP when fused, per Mega Ten tradition. And then there's the Tomb of Yomi in the Labyrinth of Amala's 666th basement.
One-Winged Angel: The three Reason bosses. The most notable of them is Baal Avatar, who is both aligned with the angels and has one large wing.
Before these, Chiaki and Isamu both undergo transformations to power themselves up.
Order Versus Chaos: Slightly subverted as the three main Reasons don't cleanly fall under "Law" or "Chaos".
Taken into a broader context (i.e. the other ending possibilities), the three main Reasons fall under "Law." Yosuga is the "tyranny" aspect of Law and populated with holier-than-thou angels, the World of Stillness is the "mechanical perfection" aspect of Law and the World of Isolation is the "distant, impersonal" aspect of Law. All three are created by buying into the reason the world was blown up in the first place—in other words, playing through the avenues of fate set up by the Great Will. The Freedom and Demon endings are created by defying the rules. Quite ironically, Shijima, the closest to absolute Law, has Ahriman, a Tyrant (Dark-Chaos), as its champion. Musubi has Noah, a Vile (Dark-Law), and Yosuga has Baal Avatar, a Deity (Light-Law).
Also Black Frost after beating him at the prison, and Samael in the final tower if you are allied with Hikawa. Although they can also be fused elsewhere these two will join you on the spot free of charge at a high level regardless if you could fuse them at that point, provided there is a spot for them in the roster.
It should be noted that you actually need to recruit Dante at some point if you want the summoning discount, and it's possible to fuse both Samael and Black Frost as soon as you beat them. So Dante's optional unless you want the full compendium. Also, if you go for the True Demon Ending (and if you go to the Fifth Kalpa, you probably are doing just that), then Dante becomes useless against Lucifer since he can't get Pierce. And no, once you hire him, you're stuck with him till the end of the game.
Power Tattoo: Inverted; from what can be inferred from the Freedom ending, the Demi-fiend's tattoos are a side-effect of his power.
Power-Upgrading Deformation: The Demi-Fiend's demonic change is far less notorious than it should be thanks to the Bishonen Line-he still looks fairly human even though Word of God is that the horn contains a primitive brain or sensory organ granting him most of his demonic power, and the Power Tattoo lines are actually demonic lymph, which is why they change color when he's near-death. It's a lot easier to notice this, however, in Isamu and Chiaki's transformations.
Punny Name + Bilingual Bonus: Futomimi's name means "Fat Ears", referring to how he seems to touch the top of his ear as he prophesises.
Sakahagi, on the other hand, refers to an execution method in which the victim was completely flayed, referencing his MO.
The Purge: Within the Mantra Army, as Thor kicked out Ongyo-Ki, Fuu-Ki, Sui-Ki and Kin-Ki.
Puzzle Boss: The Spectre, though Matador can also count force immunity and accuracy buffs/dodge debuffs. The Trumpeter is more of a puzzle game than a fight, considering his attack pattern.
You might say the Moirae Sisters puzzle/fight at the Obelisk also counts. Defeat them all in a single go with the Kagutsuchi Phase blocks.
Protagonist Journey to Villain: The entire game becomes one if you choose the True Demon route. Just to start it off, you need to claim "I'm a demon" rather than "I'm a human!" to a cute NPC demon in the Amala Labyrinth, and from there on it is made clear that the further you go into it, the more demonic you are becoming.
Psychologist Teacher: Yuko appears to be the perfect teacher: smart, strong, wise and confident. Unfortunately, she suffers from crippling self-doubt and gets easily manipulated by both Hikawa and Aradia.
She also naively thinks Aradia will give her a Reason. Problem? Conception gods don't give Reasons. As in at all. She's the one who has to develop the inner philosophy to create the Reason, but her own self-confidence issues prevent her from doing so, and she is crushed when Hikawa humiliates her at the Diet Building and lampshades how she has been doing nothing but run away from one thing or another and being used as Aradia's patsy. She has a Heroic BSOD there and is vaporized shortly after.
Screw This, I'm Outta Here!: Aradia invokes this when Yuko confronts Hikawa in the Diet Building. Realizing all three established Reasons either have summoned their gods or are in the brink of doing so, leaving her with no chance of being included as a real goddess post-Conception, Aradia plans to escape the Vortex World to whatever world is birthed from the Conception. She attempts to take Yuko with her, but leaves her at her request, as she's unwilling to allow Hikawa a clear field for Shijima. Hikawa ridicules both of them for this, Aradia for failing to protect her one follower and Yuko for being so foolish in trusting Aradia.
Secret A.I. Moves: Plenty, but special mention goes to the extremely common (and extremely cheap) Beast Eye/Dragon Eye moves and their variants. These cost 1MP and give the enemy one and THREE extra turns respectively. It's quite possible to be doing well against a boss only to have them cast Dragon Eye (read: cheat) and slaughter you.
Self-Destructive Charge / Spiteful A.I.: Several enemies have suicidal explosive abilities. Leaving them to the brink of health will lead them to prefer killing themselves and blowing up as many of your team as they can instead of waiting patiently to die. Sometimes, they even damage their allies in the process.
Serial Killer: Sakahagi. The Fourth Kalpa reveals Futomimi was one while alive.
Shattering the Illusion: Ongyo-Ki summons several illusionary copies to fight for him. One punch to a fake will destroy it, but hitting the real one will destroy them all.
The Fiend "Hell Biker" is an obvious Shout Out to Ghost Rider. He's a biker with a skull for a face and flaming wheels on his motorcycle. His original name was yet another shout out; it was "Hell's Angel."
The Shinjuku Hospital may be one to the location of Atlus' headquarters.
Signature Move: Fiends love their special moves. Other than them, a handful of demons also have at least one of these.
Sinister Geometry: There are many structures throughout the Vortex World that don't appear to have been built by human hands at all; they're just wrong, covered in Tron Lines and have no furniture or apparent functionality at all.
Soundtrack Dissonance: The final boss music is techno. You'd expect something more orchestral or grandiose considering that you're fighting an avatar of God, though it does serve to underscore just how alien Kagutsuchi is to the world.
The techno music is actually quite appropriate for a giant disco ball.
Start of Darkness: For Isamu, it's a Dummied Out scene when, at Kabukicho Prison, he studies the Amala Drum in his cell and catches a message from Yuko to the Demi-Fiend, asking to be rescued from her imprisonment at the Obelisk. It was the catalyst that drove Isamu into a Heroic BSOD, driving home just how powerless he truly was and refusing contact with the Demi-Fiend, leading to the eventual birth of the Reason of Musubi. For Chiaki, it was her ill-thought assault on Sakahagi, a far deadlier foe and one she was not ready to deal with. She lost an arm during the encounter; the despair she generated managed to attract the dying spirit of Gozu-Tennoh, who acted as her Poisonous Friend in an attempt to create a worthy successor and foil of the Reason of Shijima. This culminated in the recreation of the Reason of Yosuga under Baal Avatar, and the massacre of the Manikins.
Statistically Speaking: Averted, for the most part. Almost any locked door in the game can be unlocked after a certain stat gets to be high enough. You actually are required to if you want to get all 24 Magatama, as there's one behind a door that requires a base of 25 strength to open.
Status Buff: The -kaja series of spells (Tarukaja, Makakaja, Rakukaja, Sukukaja) and to a lesser extend Dekunda.
Status Buff Dispel / Status Debuff: Tarunda, War Cry, Sukunda, Fog Breath, Rakunda, Taunt, Debilitate and to a lesser extent Dekaja. It is also very important: while War Cry and Fog Breath will knock the enemy's fighting capacity and accuracy and evasion by two levels, respectively, Taunt will lower their defense by two levels and raise their attack power by two.
To elaborate: Dekunda and Dekaja removes all -nda and -kaja effects on your party and the enemies, respectively. While you can't buff/debuff using them, they are useful for removing multiple de/buffs (stacked and/or various).
Sticky Fingers: In the Labyrinth of Amala, there are these two ghosts that heal you for an exceedingly modest fee. They drug you, kick you back to the Kalpa entrance and take a whole lot of your money.
Summoning Ritual: Both the Cathedral of Shadows and the ritual chamber in Shibuya.
Suspiciously Similar Substitute: Raidou Kuzunoha the 14th in the Chronicle Edition is identical to Dante of the Maniacs version in pretty much every way, with one major improvement: he learns the pierce skill that Dante's lack of restricted him to Awesome but Impractical territory.
Not to mention his slightly-improved versions of Dante's attacks with new animations and better stats. Although the fact that he has pierce is indeed a huge bonus, as it was the lack of it that made Dante near-useless in everyone's eyes.
Teleporters and Transporters: The Amala Drums. Other examples include several parts of the Fourth Kalpa and the final stretch in the Tower of Kagutsuchi.
Fiends can also pull you into an Alternate Dimension for Boss Battles through some sort of teleportation magic.
Teleporter Accident: The Drums are not very reliable without some expert tinkering, as Hijiri learnt. Luckily, the worst that comes from this is a longer journey through the Amala Network to reach Ginza. Later, the Drums work much better.
This Is Unforgivable!: Metatron accuses you of this if you reach his boss room at the bottom of the Fifth Kalpa. Considering exactly what you most likely intend to do if you manage to get past him, this is actually pretty reasonable. Crosses into Moral Myopia because the Great Will who he serves is willing to do a endless cycle of Apocalypse How.
Tokyo Is the Center of the Universe: Tokyo has become the shell of new universe. This has an interesting effect late in the game: if you gain the favor of Masakado, the guardian spirit of Tokyo, you're basically being blessed by the universe itself, which is why his magatama makes you practically invincible.
Tome of Eldritch Lore: The Scripture of Miroku. The few lines quoted at the start of the Japanese version are fairly disturbing.
Touched by Vorlons: Nearly every human left in the Vortex World by the end of the game. Even the Demi-Fiend got his powers from interacting with Lucifer.
Transhuman Treachery: Isamu and Chiaki forego all of their humanity upon becoming the leaders of their respective Reasons, Isamu when merging with the Amala spirits and Chiaki when absorbing Gozu-Tennoh. Both cross their Moral Event Horizons soon after; Isamu kills Hijiri and Chiaki massacres the Manikins. Hikawa really didn't change that much upon fusing with Ahriman, but, then again, both were so like-minded it's not like there's any real difference between both.
Averted to the point that one of the most useful spells Fog Breath, which reduces all enemies' accuracy by half can be learned at level 21, from the second magatama.
Without using buffs and debuffs, the final boss is effectively unbeatable, since its strongest attack will deal around 800 damage on normal difficulty, 1600 on hard. More than enough to wipe out your entire team in one hit.
Against some of the four horsemen of Apocalypse, using petrification against their helpers will make the fight much easier.
If you manage to freeze or shock your opponent, every hit becomes a Critical, earning bonus turns. It's even better if you manage to do it on a boss like Aciel.
Void Between the Worlds: Seen as the Lady in Black explains the Conception. Worlds die in it, and worlds are born from it...
Waiting Puzzle: The old man in the Fourth Kalpa. Instead of immediately answering his question as he poses it, wait for three minutes and then answer "Yes".
Wake-Up Call Boss: Matador again. Up to this point, none of the bosses are too much trouble if you play smart and target elemental weaknesses. Then comes Matador, to whom you will lose several times if it's your first time through. (Hint: you will need Sukukaja, Sukunda or Fog Breath.)
We Cannot Go On Without You: It's Game Over the moment the Demi-fiend dies. Justified due to the mercenary nature of your demons: they lack the capacity to care (and the means, unless they have Recarm) to bring you back to life.
The Worf Effect: If you follow the Musubi Ending, you can see Isamu and Noah slowly dying on the floor. Isamu then remarks that he never knew Chiaki could be so strong.
World of Ham: After the conception, demons fully embrace the ham.
World of Silence: Hikawa's Reason of Shijima seeks this. Unusually, the normally-chaotic demons love the idea as it means everyone will be just like God, in essence triggering an universal Enlightenment.
Yet Another Stupid Death: Combine Nintendo Hard with the sometimes long distances between save points and the tendency to get used to certain types of enemies, it's quite possible to frustratingly die like a chump just by having the wrong magatama equipped or the wrong demon in your party when you get to a new game level with different adversaries. Many players have sad stories of ignorance or hubris lamenting a particularly painful Game Over.